Driving Word of Mouth Referrals: 5 Research Findings and 5 Tips

Companies rely on customer referrals to bring in new business. But, they continue to struggle to interact, listen, and respond in a manner that provides the engagement and motivation for customers to actually provide those referrals.
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The Challenge: Companies rely on customer referrals to bring in new business. But, they continue to struggle to interact, listen, and respond in a manner that provides the engagement and motivation for customers to actually provide those referrals.

Online customer word of mouth interactions and reviews have always been a part of Google, which now has new rules in place that will boost business reviews to a greater degree of importance in 2014. For example, businesses will now be able to feature a small, 67-character review right under their PPC ad. Additionally, Google will gather and display photographs, comments, and reviews in organic search results if a prior related search had been commenced.

Five new findings regarding word of mouth marketing have emerged from thousands of hours of Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm, ERDM:

  • Engaging and competitively differentiating customer experiences are the foundations of today's customer relationships.

  • Personalization of content, communications and experiences per customer's individual preferences are proof points that you care about your customers.
  • Spray and pray blasts yield ever lower response rates and hurt your brand.
  • It's not about self-serve. It's about providing customers with guidance and education which provides value and saves time.
  • Authenticity, storytelling and emotion are the most powerful elements of marketing communications.
  • One especially innovative organization that has embraced deep customer engagement is Thrillist Media Group, the leading men's digital media company. They have focused on differentiating themselves through personalization across channels, to their savvy male audience. Per Ben Lerer, Co-Founder and CEO of Thrillist Media Group:

    Word of Mouth Marketing has played a huge role in our growth... The key has always been to think about our content creation purposefully: why does someone need this information and how will they be better and have more fun as a result of it.

    Examples of how Thrillist has engaged customers to buy and be brand advocates include;

    • They refined their marketing lists to identify specific audiences for relevant "This is recommended for YOU" emails sent on selected products.

  • They have taken the time to understand the personality as well as the purchasing history of their customers in order to present them with a humorous display of products portrayed to make them "disturbingly more handsome".
  • The company took measures to speak to their customers in a consistent tone and "be the brand" in every channel. And, though each medium was customized for its own unique experience, it presented a concerted and consistent personalized message for its consumers.
  • This resulted in;

    • Increased traffic to the site

  • Decreased "unsubscribes" by 50 percent
  • Increased engagement by 15 percent.
  • 5 Takeaways to Cultivate Customer Referrals:

    1. Create methods of direct conversations. Give customers ample avenues to engage in conversations with your company through the touch points of their choice.

  • Develop strategies for active listening. Let customers know that you are listening and that you are giving them empowering levels of knowledge. Customers will not provide a referral if they do not understand the company, the products, or your company's perceived value. Empower them with the knowledge to go forth and tell others what they've learned.
  • Provide a consistent value-driven customer experience. Customer's own reputations are on the line when they recommend your company to others. By providing them with good customer support, it gives them confidence that others will have the same high quality customer experience.
  • Be humble. Acknowledge what you don't know about how your customers truly define engagement. Ask for voice of customer insights from your customers and then trust their wisdom and act on their recommendations.
  • Achieve frictionless, high-value, engagement across every medium in the multichannel mix. And, select channels that serve the customer. For example, texting an offer is intrusive, but using text as a reminder for something they want is value.
  • Ernan Roman is recognized as a Customer Experience innovator and was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame for creating three transformational methodologies: Voice of Customer Relationship Research, Integrated Direct Marketing, and Opt-in Marketing.

    He was also named by Crain's B to B Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in Business Marketing".

    Ernan is also the author of the widely read blog, "Ernan's Insights on Marketing Best Practices", (www.erdm.com), and author of "Opt-in Marketing" and "Integrated Direct Marketing".

    ERDM's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, NBC Universal, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec.

    As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based strategies, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with customers and prospects of these clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high value customer relationships.


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